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Are Bagged Salad Greens Clean and Safe?

Bagged salad greens — lettuce, spinach, mixed spring greens, etc. — are so appealing because they make getting your greens that much easier. But you could be risking your health if you don’t wash them first!

According to CBS News, a Consumer Reports study in 2010 showed that almost 40%  of the the leaves sold bagged or in clamshells are contaminated with unpleasant bacteria. Worse, its often bacteria associated with fecal matter. Eeeeewwww.

The good news is that it’s usually not the bacteria we think of with food-borne illnesses, like e.coli and salmonella, that is entering our homes through this convenience packaging. I mean, I guess that’s good news.

The real good news is that you can avoid eating most of the bacteria by simply washing your greens before you eat them. Really, this is good advice to follow before eating any produce, bagged or not, peeled or with a rind, or not.

veggie wash
Organic Veggie Wash works well to clean produce.

Personally, I like to use a Veggie Wash on all of my produce to ensure a good washing of any pesticides and fertilizers, pollutants from acid rain, anti-fungal coatings, as well as nematodes and other organisms found in soil. Most veggie washes have a foundation of an acid (often citrus or vinegar) to help dissolve the waxes used to hold the pesticide onto the fruit or vegetable

For single fruits and veggies, including melons, apples, avocados, cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes, I spray them and then massage the wash all over each one individually before rinsing.

salad spinner
This is the OXO salad spinner I use!

To clean smaller things, like berries or grapes, I place them in a bowl, spray liberally with your veggie wash, fill with water and swish around for a few minutes before draining and rinsing.

To clean leafy greens like lettuce or spinach, I separate the leaves and drop them into the bowl of my salad spinner. They get sprayed while the bowl fills with water, then swished gently to loosen any dirt and allowed to sit briefly while any debris sinks. I lift the basket and dump out the dirty water, then lower the basket back into the bowl, fill with clean water, swish and drain. Just spin dry and your salad is now clean and safe to eat!

Just like in the commercials, some of your produce (like broccoli) will change color and look more vibrant without all of that gunk.

And yes, I even do this with the bagged greens that claim to be “triple-rinsed”. When it comes to food borne illnesses, I’ve learned it is better to be safe than sorry!

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